02/19/14 — Commission hires temp for manager slot

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Commission hires temp for manager slot

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 19, 2014 1:46 PM

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George Wood

A Georgia native with a background mostly in city government is the county's new interim county manager.

Tuesday's unanimous vote by Wayne County commissioners to appoint George A. Wood to that position comes two weeks after the resignation of Lee Smith, who served as county manager for nearly 13 years.

Wood will be paid $13,000 monthly, plus $600 for travel.

A native of Savannah, Ga., Wood, 62, retired in June after serving five years, March 2008 to June 2013, as county manager in Lincoln County.

However, his experience is mostly as a city manager including stints at Lancaster and Kingstree, S.C., Pinehurst and Kings Mountain, N.C., Cleveland, Tenn., and Statesboro, Ga.

Located just northwest of Charlotte, Lincoln County has a population of about 80,000.

The appointment followed a nearly two-hour closed session called to discuss qualifications of a potential employee.

After returning to open session, commissioners made their usual meeting wrap-up comments before Commissioner Bill Pate, who chaired the interview committee with Commissioners Ray Mayo and Ed Cromartie, made the motion to hire Wood effective Monday.

There was no discussion including how long the interim position will last. When the board accepted Smith's negotiated settlement at its Feb. 4 session, Chairman Wayne Aycock said it could take up to nine months to find a new manager.

Smith, who had been suspended with pay since Jan. 3, will be paid $325,000 as part of the agreement.

The county has been without a full-time manager since mid-December when commissioners said Smith had asked for some time off and Aycock was named acting county manager.

Then on Jan. 3, following a specially called closed session, commissioners voted 6-1 to suspend Smith with pay.

After making the appointment Tuesday, commissioners recessed their meeting until 9 a.m. Monday in Courtroom No. 1 when Wood will be sworn in.

Commissioner Steve Keen suggested having Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones swear Wood in.

Pate said the committee interviewed four candidates. A couple of others dropped out, he said.

"Some of them I selected not to interview because I spent 32 years looking at resumes and sometimes you have to make a decision on who you are going to interview," Pate said after the meeting. "We went through the (N.C.) Association (of County Commissioners) to get some recommendations of former county managers out there.

"We picked up a number of resumes and interviewed several people. We just thought that Mr. Wood came out on top. All of them were good candidates. All were well-qualified, but you have to make a decision. I believe he has a lot to offer Wayne County."

Wood said he did not know if he would be interested in staying on after an interim period and that he would "just play that ear."

"I am in a consulting business with three other managers now," he said. "Wayne County is an excellent community. Goldsboro, I am familiar with. (The county) has everything it needs to move forward, so it is one of the better counties in the state. So when I saw the opening, and I had somebody with the N.C. Association of County Commissioners contact me and asked if I would be interested, I told them I definitely would be interested."

Wood said he had no hesitation about coming in on the heels of the controversy surrounding Smith and the board, or criticisms that commissioners micromanage the manager's office.

"That working relationship, I think, will work out as we work together," he said.

Wood said he would call his management style "participative."

"I like to get a lot of information from department heads who are dealing with a particular issue," he said. "I like to talk to people who will be involved and who will be impacted by the decision.

"Sometimes that means getting two or three department heads together because it goes across departmental lines. I like to get a lot of input from people before making a decision and a recommendation to the board."

Wood is a 1974 magna cum laude graduate from Georgia Southern University with a bachelor's degree in political science.

He received a master's degree in public administration with an urban management concentration in 1978 from the University of Kansas.

He and his wife of 34 years, Pamela, have an adult son, Andrew.

Wood is a member of the state Library Board of North Carolina and the Blue Ribbon Panel on the Future of Centralina Council of Governments in Charlotte.

He is a former member of the N.C. City and County Management Association, former treasurer and board member of Electricities of N.C., and former member of the Georgia City/County Management association and former chair of the Tennessee City Management Association's Legislative and Policy Committee.